Desalination of Sea Water — An Old Idea Whose Time Has Come
When you look at a photo of the Earth taken from space, you see how much of the Earth's surface is covered by water.
You also see how much water there is that we can't drink.
But what if we could turn the oceans into a supply of drinking water?
Desalination isn't new -- there are now more than three dozen desalination plants in Texas alone -- but scientists say many more are needed if we are to have any hope of heading off a looming water shortage.
Desalination has been around for decades, but it's been prohibitively expensive; up to four times as expensive as other water treatment methods. But that's not the deal-breaker it once was.
Texas' first permanent desalination plant is scheduled to open on South Padre Island in 2014, and Houston has long-term plans for a $250 million plant in Freeport by 2050.
Which brings us to a proposal by a University of Houston professor of engineering. Dr. Larry Witte is making the case for using nuclear power plants for water desalination.
Witte says using the nuclear power process to produce usable water is relatively simple and straightforward. Heat from a reactor core turns water into steam that drives turbines to produce power.
Witte says "Some of the power can be used to drive pumps in a reverse osmosis filtration process that separates fresh water from salty seawater or brackish inland water sources."
Witte thinks Texas is a natural for this process, because the state needs both power and water -- and it has an almost unlimited supply of onshore brackish inland water and water from the Gulf of Mexico on which to draw.
Think about it. An unlimited supply of sea water that can be turned into drinking water. It's about time somebody pursued this possibility.